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July 28, 2014

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THE LAST WORD:

Six questions for Kelly Wuest

College of Southern Nevada

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Leila Navidi

Kelly Wuest, director of career services at the College of Southern Nevada, says Nevada’s current recession is more pervasive than prior downturns.

In this foundering economy, career counselors at colleges across the country are seeing a spike in the number of students looking for help with job searches. At the College of Southern Nevada, many job-seekers wind up seeing Kelly Wuest, who oversees career services for the school.

With the economy struggling, are more students turning to you?

Yes. We see students who would normally not come in. These are students who, in the past, have been able to find jobs. They’ve been in everything from food service to retail. Some were in a professional job, like in the mortgage industry.

What makes your job worth it?

Seeing students gaining a career and the confidence that accompanies that success. I have had students pull up in new cars, show me pictures of their house and send thank you notes, sometimes chocolate. It is rewarding to be a part of their experience and growth.

What are some of the most difficult parts of your job, given the state of the economy?

Students’ needs increase in a poor economy. I have seen students have to choose between food and gas, books and rent. Many are unable to keep up.

How does today’s economic downturn compare to others you’ve seen in Nevada?

This one is more pervasive than downturns in 1993 and 2001. The one in 1993 was specific to the Tonopah Test Range and the Nevada Test Site, and in 2001 the Sept. 11 attacks hurt the tourism industry. This time the effects are more pervasive, affecting most industries. In June 2007 I began seeing a sharp decline in the number of part-time job postings in job banks. Since that time, the number of students recruited at job fairs and on-campus recruitment sessions has declined.

How long can students expect to wait before landing their dream jobs?

It’s hard to estimate a time frame. In some industries, at this point, they may not get what they’re looking for. Part of it is how much time students commit to a job search and how many places they apply.

How can students build skills in a down economy?

Internships. Some will be unpaid. Volunteering. Maybe you want to work in social service, but there are no jobs out there. I can usually find you someplace to get volunteer hours.

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